Oregon finds a way to pick up needed victory at UCLA (VIDEO)

Leave a comment

When news broke just a couple hours before Thursday’s game that UCLA guards Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams were suspended one game for a violation of team rules, it seemed to be a formality that Oregon would pick up a much-needed victory. Sure the Bruins still had some talented players available, but to expect UCLA to be a threat after losing its top two scorers seemed to be a bit much.

But that wasn’t the case, with UCLA putting up a greater fight than most expected and Oregon seemingly doing its best to make sure the Bruins hung around. After getting off to a good start offensively the Ducks slowed down in the second half, with UCLA’s 2-3 zone factoring into the issues experienced by Dana Altman’s team. Given the number of quality guards at Altman’s disposal this wasn’t the expectation, but far too often the Ducks failed to attack the middle of the UCLA zone.

And then there were the final seconds of regulation, with the Ducks losing track of David Wear after a Joseph Young free throw with 1.3 seconds remaining. After Young made the shot he was looking to miss Travis Wear fired a strike to his twin brother, with David knocking down the 30-footer as time expired. Oregon would have to work five more minutes of the win, and after the two teams combined to score four points in the first extra session five more.

Ultimately Young (26 points) and Mike Moser (12 points, 20 rebounds and five assists) would lead the Ducks to the 87-83 double overtime win, keeping alive their hopes of getting hot and earning a spot in the NCAA tournament. Oregon was able to win not only because of their outlasting UCLA, but also their advantages in points off turnovers and second-chance points. Oregon converted 11 UCLA turnovers into 18 points (+11 advantage) and rebounded 39.5% of their missed shots, scoring 17 second-chance points (+12).

Of course those are two areas in which Anderson and Adams have been so influential this season, as they’re also UCLA’s top two rebounders and Anderson the leader in assists. Oregon did much of its work in these areas early, leading by as much as 15 early in the second half. But the Ducks’ ability to make things difficult on themselves has been a theme of sorts in the majority of their conference games, and that was once again the case on Thursday night.

However given Oregon’s status as a bubble team it’s the result that matters. Some will look to add an asterisk of sorts to this result given the absence of Anderson and Adams, and while this would be fair it isn’t Oregon’s fault that they were suspended. Regardless of who was on the court for UCLA, Oregon had to get the win regardless of how long it took. And after fifty minutes of basketball, the Ducks accomplished that task.

Michigan’s hot shooting carries them into the Elite Eight past Texas A&M

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Historically known as a team that lived and died with the three-ball, No. 3-seed Michigan had spent the first weekend of the NCAA tournament proving history wrong.

In an ugly game in their opener against Montana, the Wolverines shot 5-for-16 from three while turning the ball over 14 times and managing a measly 61 points. Against Houston in the second round, Michigan shot 8-for-30 from beyond the arc, with one of those threes coming courtesy of Jordan Poole at the buzzer, sending the Wolverines into the Sweet 16 with a 64-63 win.

Put another way, Michigan looked the part of the defensive grinder that they turned into this season.

Against No. 7-seed Texas A&M in the Sweet 16, however, the Wolverines turned into the Golden State Warriors.

Michigan bested the number of three that they had made in the tournament to date, hitting 14-of-24 bombs while shooting 62 percent from the floor in a 99-72 win over an Aggies team that had finally, for the first time since November, looked the part of the SEC title contender that they have the talent to be.

No. 11 Loyola moves on to Elite Eight after beating No. 7 Nevada

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Loyola is in the Elite Eight.

The Ramblers’ dream run through March continued Thursday as they knocked off No. 7 Nevada, 69-68, in South Region semifinal in Atlanta.

Loyola, an 11th seed making its first NCAA tournament appearance since 1985, will play the winner of Kansas State and Kentucky on Sunday for a chance to return to the Final Four for the first time since it won the 1963 national championship.

Marques Townes hit a 3-pointer with under 10 seconds to play to put the Ramblers up four and put the game all but out of reach for Nevada. Townes finished with 18 points while Clayton Custer had 15.  Loyola shot 55.8 percent from the floor for the game.

The Wolf Pack’s Caleb Martin had 21 points while Jordan Caroline had 19. Nevada shot 41.4 percent from the floor.

Nevada looked like it may overwhelm Loyola early as it built a 12-point lead less than seven minutes into the game. The Ramblers, though, struck back by keeping the Wolf Pack off the board for nearly the last 8 minutes of the first half to take a four-point lead into the break.

The strong play considered on the other side of halftime for Loyola, which astonishingly made its first 13 shots of the second half. Still, despite the perfect start, the Ramblers only briefly took a double-digit lead before Nevada sliced it back down below 10.

Loyola’s inability to build a substantial lead came back to bite it as Nevada, the comeback kids of this tournament, mounted its attack on the deficit and had it erased before the under-four timeout, setting up the final frantic minutes of a battle for a spot in the Elite Eight that the Ramblers claimed thanks to Townes’ late triple.

2018 March Madness: Fans in Times Square pick fake teams in Sweet 16 predictions

Leave a comment

NBC Sports went into Times Square this week to ask basketball fans for their Sweet 16 picks.

The only problem?

The teams in the games are not actually playing in the NCAA Tournament.

They aren’t even actually teams.

Hilarity ensued.

Miami’s Bruce Brown declares for draft without an agent

Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Bruce Brown wants to hear what the NBA has to say.

The Miami sophomore has declared for the draft but will not hire an agent, the school announced Thursday.

The 6-foot-5 guard averaged 11.4 points, 7.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game during his second season with the Hurricanes. He did, though, see his shooting numbers take a tumble compared to his freshman season with his field goal percentage down from 45.9 to 41.5 percent and his 3-point shoot go from 34.7 to 26.7 percent. There’s also the matter of a foot injury that required surgery and kept him off the floor for the ‘Canes’ last 12 games.

By declaring for the draft, Brown can get in front of NBA teams, who will likely take a very close look at his shooting mechanics after that sophomore season downturn. It will also be an opportunity for him to build up his reputation in the professional ranks after spending much of his sophomore season injured.

Big East makes its rules recommendations in wake of FBI probe

Mike Stobe/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Big East has ideas.

The conference on Thursday unveiled its recommendations to change college basketball in the wake of the federal investigation of corruption that resulted in 10 initial arrests and general tumult across the sport.

Among the recommendations are allowing players to go pro out of high school but requiring those who go to college to stay there at least two seasons.  They also posit increased regulation of agents, shoe companies and its own members as well as a changed recruiting calendar and more coordination with USA Basketball.

These all seem well-intentioned, but probably not destined for implementation or success.

First off, the age limit that creates one-and-dones is an NBA rule, and no matter what lobbying the NCAA does, they’re not likely to change it on college’s behalf. Any change there will come at the behest of the National Basketball Players Association. The only real leverage the NCAA has on this front would be to declare freshmen ineligible as they once were, but that seems incredibly unlikely. The idea was floated a few years back, but felt entirely like a bluff.

Even if the NCAA somehow mandated players spend at least two seasons on campus, that seems incredibly anti-player. Trae Young probably wouldn’t have left Norman North High School after his senior year, but it would be silly to make him stay another season at Oklahoma if he didn’t want to after the year he just had. Going to college helped Young’s draft stock, but staying there would almost certainly hurt him.

Players that play their way into a multi-million future being made to stick around and play for free for an extra year doesn’t seem to be a viable solution in 2018. Beyond being anti-player on its face, it could fuel even more negative consequences for players who feel they are fringe candidates. Instead of just going to school for a year and proving themselves, some players may just decide they don’t want to risk being there for two years and declare, essentially, a year early.

It also is worth noting that the same document that calls for shoe company influence to be curtailed while also bringing in USA Basketball, which is very intertwined with Nike, is…interesting.

At the end of the day, these recommendations address symptoms – and probably not that well – rather than the root cause, which is amateurism. As long as players, who clearly, literally and inarguably have value beyond their scholarship, are unable to cash in on their skills, there will be people willing to pay them surreptitiously.

It’s hard to “clean up the game” when the “dirty money” isn’t going anywhere.