Late Night Snacks: No. 1 Arizona falls, but status of Brandon Ashley more important

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GAME OF THE DAY: No. 2 Syracuse 91, No. 17 Duke 89 (OT)

The first meeting between these two storied program as members of the same conference did not disappoint, with the Orange needing overtime to beat the Blue Devils. Duke made 15 three-pointers against the Syracuse zone and scored 32 points in the paint, but Jabari Parker and Amile Jefferson fouling out late in regulation robbed them of their two best front court players. Syracuse’s C.J. Fair scored 28 points to lead all scorers, while it was Rasheed Sulaimon who led five Blue Devils in double figures with 16. His three-pointer as time expired forced overtime.

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES

1) California 60, No. 1 Arizona 58

Justin Cobbs’ jumper with nine tenths of a second remaining proved to be the difference, but it was the play of big men David Kravish (14 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and four blocks) and Richard Solomon (12 points, seven rebounds, three steals and two blocks) that put the Golden Bears in position to win the game. The biggest issue for Arizona: the health of Brandon Ashley, who injured his right foot early in the game and per head coach Sean Miller’s post game comments there’s a concern that he may have broken the foot. That would be a far bigger issue for Arizona than the fact that they suffered their first loss of the season.

2) No. 25 Texas 81, No. 6 Kansas 69

Rick Barnes’ Longhorns are now a game out of first place in the loss column, with Isaiah Taylor scoring 23 points and Jonathan Holmes adding 22 to lead the way offensively. Also of note for Texas was the play of young big men Prince Ibeh and Cameron Ridley, who more than held their own against Kansas’ talented front court. As for the Jayhawks, they’ve allowed three straight opponents to shoot better than 40% from the field, and while that may not seem like a big deal Bill Self-coached teams are generally better defensively than that.

3) Georgetown 64, No. 7 Michigan State 60 (OT) 

Did Georgetown save its season with this win? That remains to be seen, but the fact of the matter is that the Hoyas were in desperate need of some good news. They also welcomed back Jabril Trawick, who missed time with a broken jaw. Gary Harris scored 20 for Michigan State, but without Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson the sophomore guard didn’t receive enough help.

STARRED

1) Alan Williams (UCSB)

Williams tallied 27 points, 20 rebounds and four assists in the Gauchos’ 82-67 win over UC Davis.

2) Tyler Harvey (Eastern Washington)

Harvey made ten of his 15 three-point attempts, scoring 38 points to go along with four rebounds and four assists in the Eagles’ 94-90 overtime win over Northern Colorado.

3) Juwan Staten (West Virginia) 

35 points on 8-for-13 shooting, five assists and four rebounds in the Mountaineers’ 81-71 win over Kansas State.

STRUGGLED

1) Nick Johnson and T.J. McConnell (Arizona) 

Arizona’s starting backcourt had a rough night in Berkeley, with Johnson shooting 1-for-14 and McConnell not registering a single assist in the Wildcats’ 60-58 loss at Cal.

2) Andrew Wiggins (Kansas)

Wiggins shot 2-for-12 from the field and scored seven points in the Jayhawks’ 81-69 loss at No. 25 Texas.

3) Ashton Moore (The Citadel)

Moore made just two of his 14 attempts from the field, scoring six points in the Bulldogs’ 62-43 loss at Davidson.

NOTABLES

  • No. 3 Florida used stifling defense to roll over another overmatched opponent, beating Texas A&M 69-36 in Gainesville. And on Tuesday night against Missouri, Chris Walker will make his debut.
  • No. 4 Wichita State moved to 23-0, beating Evansville 81-67 after recovering from a slow start. The Shockers, who trailed by 15 in the first half, led by as much as 19 in the second.
  • The wildest finish of the day: that would be Sacramento State’s 78-75 win over Weber State. Dylan Garrity’s 75-footer may have won it, but read this recap of the final 15 seconds by Jonathan Reed of Big Sky Basketball.
  • No. 24 Ohio State picked up a win they really needed, beating No. 14 Wisconsin 59-58 in Madison. And as a result of this it’s now the Badgers who have lost five of their last six.
  • Aaron Harrison led four players in double figures with 21 points and No. 11 Kentucky won 84-79 at Missouri. An Alex Poythress blocked shot in the final minute sealed the outcome.
  • Baylor ended its skid with a 76-70 win at No. 8 Oklahoma State, with Brady Heslip (20 points) and Gary Franklin Jr. (11) playing well in place of the injured Kenny Chery. As for the Cowboys, they need more from Marcus Smart.
  • Chris Collins’ Northwestern Wildcats won again, beating Minnesota 55-54 in Minneapolis with Drew Crawford scoring 17 points to lead the way.
  • Halil Kanacevic scored 18 points to lead Saint Joseph’s to a 73-68 win over No. 21 UMass in Philadelphia. The Minutemen, who began A-10 play 3-0, are now 4-3.
  • Gabriel Olaseni established new career highs with 15 points and 12 rebounds as No. 15 Iowa beat Illinois, 81-74.
  • Kevin Olekaibe and Deville Smith made key plays down the stretch to lead UNLV to a 73-69 win over Boise State. Dave Rice’s Runnin’ Rebels moved to 6-3 in Mountain West play.
  • Tyler Haws scored 33 points to lead BYU to an 84-71 win over Saint Mary’s, moving into a tie for second place in the WCC with San Francisco.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25 

Like his career, Frank Martin has built South Carolina from the ground up

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NEW YORK — It was after he finished watching South Carolina cut down the Madison Square Garden nets, after he had spent the better part of 30 minutes giving interviews on the court, after he was spotted by the CBS cameras, with a fist raised and tears pooling under his eyes, that the enormity of what he had just witnessed hit Darius Rucker.

“Gosh,” he said to everyone and no one in particular as he left the arena floor and made his way through the bowels of the Garden, “I can’t believe that just happened.”

The ‘that’ that Rucker, South Carolina’s most famous and, quite possibly, biggest fan, was referring to was a 77-70, come-from behind win over No. 4 seed Florida that jettisoned the seventh-seeded Gamecocks through the Elite 8 and into the Final Four. Prior to this season, the Gamecocks hadn’t been to the NCAA tournament in 13 years. They had been to four NCAA tournaments in the previous 43 seasons, and they had never won back-to-back tournament game.

As in not ever.

“We’re in the Garden, watching the Gamecocks play to go to the Final Four,” Rucker said. “If you’d have told me that ten years ago I’d have told you that you were on crack.”

That’s the program that Frank Martin inherited in 2012, when he left Kansas State following a falling out with his athletic director, John Currie. Like South Carolina, Kansas State was hardly considered a destination job when Martin was at the helm, but he was able to build off of a foundation created by Bob Huggins. Martin had been to four NCAA tournaments in five years with Kansas State when he made the decision to leave. Nothing is more important to Martin than loyalty. “He’s always had a core group of people that he’s counted on,” his agent, Bret Just, said, and Currie was not one of those people.

The straw that broke the camel’s back came during the 2012 NCAA tournament. Kansas State was a No. 8 seed, squaring off with No. 1 seed Syracuse when Martin was informed by Currie that Jamar Samuels, one of his best players, would not be allowed to suit up. The school had stumbled upon information that Samuels had received a wire transfer for $200 from his AAU coach, and he was going to be suspended.

And that was that.

Martin was off to South Carolina.

(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

“It was a situation where we had to go,” associate head coach Matt Figger, who has been with Martin for the last decade, said, and it wasn’t exactly the easiest or smartest decision to leave. Most understood why Martin had to make the change that he made — he was offered a hefty raise and he had the chance to leave a place of employment where he did not get along with his boss — but it wasn’t as if Martin was climbing the ladder. If anything, South Carolina was a step backwards, as Martin took over a program with less pedigree and with a significant building job in front of them.

“I didn’t really know until I got into it. It was a much different deal. It looked easier on the surface than what it really was,” Figger said. “The best players transferred. Bruce Ellington, he’s with the 49ers now, he was the one guy that we could trust and he played football half the year. Couple of the guys that were the holdovers, I don’t think they believed in what our vision was. After a year, some of them left.”

“We had to start this from scratch.”

The process was slow in the early stages. Martin replaced Darrin Horn, who had won just 10 games and finished dead last in the SEC in his final season on campus, and didn’t post a .500 record until his third season in Columbia. Even then, that team went just 17-16. He won 15 SEC games in his first three years combined. After a late season swoon cost South Carolina a shot at the 2016 NCAA tournament, there was speculation that another year without a trip to the Big Dance could spell the end of Martin’s time with the Gamecocks.

“It was hard!” Martin’s wife, Anya, said. “You see he’s losing his hair. It’s all turning white. It was tough in the beginning. I had to ask him a couple of times, ‘Why here?’”

The easy answer is that it wasn’t Kansas State, but the truth is more complicated than that.

Martin is not a man that is afraid of a challenge. He’s not intimidated by a job that isn’t easy to do, not when you come from where he’s come from, when you’ve coached on the path that he has coached.

Martin got his first job when he was 12 years old, working at a Dairy Queen to help his mom pay the bills when his dad walked out on them. His coaching career started a year after he graduated high school, when he was just 19 years old.

“I tore my ACL the year before,” Martin said, “and my high school coach asked me to come help him, because the kids in the neighborhood respected me so much.”

He was nothing more than an assistant with the team at Miami Senior High School, helping out when and where he could, when the head coach of the JV team didn’t show up for work one day. Shakey Rodriguez, a legend in the Miami High School basketball community, told Martin he would be coaching that day, and he hasn’t looked back since.

“By his second season,” Martin’s mother, Lourdes, beaming as she held back tears of joy, said, “he was 22-0.”

Even as Martin was coaching, he was still working on the side, most famously as a bouncer in Miami’s nightclub scene. He needed a degree, so he took night classes at Miami-Dade College before enrolling part-time at FIU. His future was capped if he didn’t graduate.

“He made it out,” she added, holding on to her grandson to steady herself as the moment washed over her. “He had many, many jobs, and then God was up there and blessed him.”

Martin would go from the high school ranks to Northeastern, taking a paycut just to get his foot in the door. He spent four years as an assistant and met his wife — “My wife turned me down seven times to go out on a date,” he said. “Seven. Seven. And the day she made the mistake of going out on a date with me, I never let her go.” — before moving on to Cincinnati, where he joined forces with Bob Huggins, spending two seasons with the Bearcats before following Huggins to Kansas State. He replaced Huggins as Kansas State’s head coach a year after joining the program and just seven years after he joined the collegiate coaching ranks. He would take the Wildcats to more NCAA tournaments in his five seasons at the helm than they had been to in the previous two decades combined.

“Frank’s never steered away from a challenge as long as I’ve known him,” Anya said. “He’s overcome any obstacle in his way, just ‘I’m going to make it work.'”

“He’s a builder,” Just said.

And he’s done just that at South Carolina.

“I’m happy as any mom could be,” Lourdes said. “Speechless, but not all the way. I have to talk to him about my air ticket.”

(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Martin spoke many times about the dream of leading this team to this moment, but he didn’t always believe that the dream of taking the Gamecocks to the Final Four was a realistic possibility.

“When we beat Duke, Frank said ‘Why not us?’” Figgers said, a motto that had become something of a rallying cry for the Gamecocks during the East Regional. “That’s the first time we really talked about [winning a title].”

The team and the coaching staff weren’t the only ones that never really gave this possibility much thought. College basketball at large — the fans, the media, opposing coaches — all had the same thought: “South Carolina in the Final Four? The same team that put up 86 points in four overtimes against Alabama? Lulz.”

They showed us.

Over and over again.

South Carolina’s star guard Sindarius Thornwell, who was named Most Outstanding Player in the East Region, mentioned in every press conference this weekend that no one paid attention to or respected the program prior to this run. Martin ranted earlier this year about the lack of local media coverage his team gets, particularly when they play on the road.

At this point in the season, most players get burned out of the media attention they get, answering the same questions over and over and over again.

I don’t blame them.

On Sunday evening, after spending 25 minutes up on the dais for a postgame press conference, Thornwell was finally en route back to the locker room to celebrate with his team when he was pulled aside by a television reporter that needed just a couple more minutes of his time.

Thornwell, decked out in a East Regional Champs shirt and hat with the remnants of a net dangling around his neck, didn’t mind.

“You gotta talk a lot,” Thornwell said, “when you win.”

Drake hires Furman’s Niko Medved to be new head coach

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Drake has hired Furman head coach Niko Medved to the same position, the school announced on Sunday.

The 43-year-old Medved has led the Paladins to back-to-back CIT appearances as he’s been the head coach there for four seasons. Also an assistant coach at Minnesota and Colorado State, Medved is a noted recruiter.

“I am ecstatic about the opportunity to be the next men’s basketball coach at Drake University,” Medved said in the release. “Drake University’s tremendous reputation partnered with its strong leadership and the thriving Des Moines community make this a special place.  I was born and raised in the Midwest and have so many strong roots in this part of the country.  My family and I can’t wait to get started.”

Medved was named the Southern Conference’s 2017 Coach of the Year for helping lead Furman to the regular-season title in the league.

The Bulldogs are coming off a last-place finish in the Missouri Valley Conference as former head coach Ray Giacoletti was relieved of his duties in January. Drake only has one NCAA Tournament appearance since 1971 (coming in 2008) as the Bulldogs have struggled to remain relevant in a tough league.

VIDEO: North Carolina and Roy Williams dance in locker room after advancing to Final Four

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Watching Roy Williams dance never gets old.

The North Carolina head coach is taking his team back to the Final Four next weekend after the Tar Heels outlasted Kentucky in a thrilling South Regional final.

North Carolina is making its 20th appearance in the Final Four as they are going for the second consecutive season.

2017 NCAA Tournament Final Four schedule, tip times, and announcer pairings

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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National Semifinals– Saturday, April 1

6:09 p.m. EST, CBS, Glendale
No. 7 South Carolina vs. No. 1 Gonzaga (Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, Bill Raftery, Tracy Wolfson)

Approximately 40 minutes after conclusion of first game, CBS, Glendale
No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 3 Oregon (Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, Bill Raftery, Tracy Wolfson)

VIDEO: The insane final 10 seconds of North Carolina’s win over Kentucky

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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North Carolina and Kentucky ended in legendary fashion on Sunday.

After freshman Malik Monk buried a heavily-contested three-pointer to tie the game at 73-all for Kentucky with under 10 seconds left the Tar Heels didn’t use a timeout as Theo Pinson found forward Luke Maye for the game-winning jumper.

These 10 seconds will go down as one of the greatest finishes in NCAA Tournament history.